Skip to main content

Full text of "Investing in life's basic building blocks : to secure Canada's future food supply."

See other formats


Agriculture and Agriculture et 

Agri-Food Canada Agroalimentaire Canada 


Direction generale 
de la recherche 

Investing in 
life's basic building blocks 

to secure Canada s future food supply 

C 98-7 

Canadian Crop Genomics Initiative 





•* 4» 

* SWr*i m * 

*** •• 



£ f» ; Y% W ' 


" * • Sfcis- *£*& 

i ■ ! 







AM ^jS 

^ CANADA K tf 


Research Branch 

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada 

©Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada 1 998 
Technical Bulletin 1 998-7E 

Catalog No. A54-8/1 998-7E ISBN 0-662-27130-0 
August 1 998 

available from 

Strategic Promotion, Research Branch 

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada 

Sir John Carling Building, Room 743 

Ottawa K1A0C5 

Tel.: (613) 759-7878 Fax: (613) 759-7768 


Table of Contents 


Background: Consultation findings for the renewal 
of the Canadian Biotechnology Strategy 

The opportunity 


Canadian potential to capture the benefits 


The targets 


Farmed crops 


Marketable molecules 


The receptor base for technologies 


AAFC competency in plant science 


Some biotechnology applications in AAFC 


Linkages and partnerships 


Proposed crop genomics initiative in relation 

to the overall Canadian genomics effort 


Research Branch led functional genomics 



Program elements 




Targeting Canadian traits 








Appendix 4 

Biotechnology research and expertise within AAFC 20 ( 

Pacific Agricultural Research Centre, Summerland 20 

Lethbridge Research Centre 21 

Saskatoon Research Centre 22 

Cereal Research Centre, Winnipeg 23 
Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre, Ottawa 25 
Southern Crop Protection and 

Food Research Centre, London 26 
Soils and Crops Research and 

Development Centre, Sainte-Foy 27 

Potato Research Centre, Fredericton 27 

Other centres 28 


All living animals and plants have genes that control the fundamental 
processes of life. Most genes are organized in physical structures 
called chromosomes. Genomics is the area of science that deals with 
understanding the structure, function, and interrelationships of the 
genes contained in living organisms. Some of the benefits that may 
result from an improved understanding of the structure and function 
of genes include 

■ more effective diagnosis and treatment of diseases in humans 
and crops 

■ new crops that are more nutritious and higher yielding 

■ reduced requirements for pesticides and fertilizers in food 

Genomics will lead to the development of crops that can be used to 
produce a wide range of industrial, nutraceutical, and 
pharmaceutical products. 

Recent advances in our capability to do genomics research are 
regarded as the most important new tools we have to meet the future 
needs of the planet for food. The hugely expanded ability to clone 
genes and study their function provides possibilities for improving the 
performance of crops that are of strategic importance to this country. 

Canada needs to develop and sustain a leading position in this area 
of discovery, to secure a strategic interest in the development of 
superior crops for Canadian agriculture. Genomics research offers a 
rare opportunity for Canadians to 

■ reduce our reliance on pesticides and fertilizers for food 

■ make the business of food production more sustainable and 
environmentally friendly 

■ ensure a safe and affordable food supply for the future 


■ contribute to value-added processing opportunities for the sector 

■ ensure that we remain globally competitive in the crops that we 
have a comparative advantage in growing 

■ strengthen Canada's position as a leading country for research 
and development in plant biotechnology 

■ create and retain high technology jobs at home. 

This document outlines a framework for a coordinated and highly 
focussed Canadian Crop Genomics Initiative to be lead by the 
Research Branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). 
Recent advances in genomics research technologies, including 
processes for automating many of the steps in gene identification, 
promise to greatly accelerate the process of assigning functions to 

This initiative aims to identify the structure and function of important 
genes. The work lays the basis for the development of future 
Canadian crops that 

■ are resistant to diseases and insects 

■ can better withstand stresses such as cold and heat 

■ have better yield and quality attributes. 

Another benefit will be new platform technologies that will preserve 
the freedom to operate for a broad base of Canadian industries and 
public-sector institutions so that they can bring the products of their 
biotechnology innovations to the market in support of the Canadian 
agri-food sector. 

The 1 8 specialized centres of the Research Branch of Agriculture and 
Agri-Food Canada have a wide range of expertise in plant biology 
that is essential if the process of gene discovery is to extend to genes 
of true agricultural importance. AAFC expertise includes 

■ molecular biology 

■ bioinformatics 

■ entomology 

■ pathology 

■ crop physiology 

■ weed science 

■ natural products chemistry 

■ crop breeding 

■ genetics. 

This integrated expertise is essential to 

■ finding useful genes 

■ understanding their function 

■ incorporating them into germplasm and crop varieties for the 
benefit of the Canadian agri-food industry. 

There is a clear strategic opportunity for Canada to build on its 
historic strength in plant breeding and plant biology in this era of 
gene discovery. Targeted funding for key infrastructure developments 
and key biological resources at selected centres within the Research 
Branch of AAFC, allied with more widely distributed funding to 
selected centres of expertise in universities and the private sector for 
biology-driven gene identification and crop enhancement projects, 
would constitute a highly competitive Canadian Crop Genomics 

These highly focussed activities in agricultural crop genomics 
complement other genomics research proposals under consideration 
from the National Research Council (NRC) and the Medical Research 
Council (MRC). 

(Background: Consultation 
findings for the renewal 
of the Canadian 
Biotechnology Strategy 

The sixth report (1998) of the National Biotechnology Advisory 
Committee entitled Leading in the Next Millennium recommended 

■ Canada should continue to lead in biopharmaceuticals and 
agricultural biotechnology; and the federal government should 
advance postgenomic studies through increased funding to 
Canada's genome program with strong emphasis on functional 
genomics, bioinformatics, proteomics, domain studies, and 
differential gene expression. 

The Canadian Agricultural Research Council conducted consultations 
this spring in support of the development of the Canadian 
Biotechnology Strategy. In a report entitled Opportunities and 
Challenges for Application of Biotechnology in the Canadian Agri- 
Food Sector, it recommended that 

■ public institutions play a leadership role in a number of basic 
areas of research, including genomic technologies for specific 
projects of relevance to Canada's major agricultural commodities 
and for increased R&D in support of agri-food regulation. The 
report also emphasized the principle of building on strengths and 
previous investments. 

Parliament's Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food held 
a set of meetings this spring, also in support of the development of 
the Canadian Biotechnology Strategy. In a report (1998) entitled 


Capturing the Advantage: Agricultural Biotechnology in the New 
Millennium, it recommended that 

■ funding for long-term basic research within AAFC be increased. 
Special mention was made of projects of major international 
potential and of research to build on Canadian strengths and 
commercial possibilities through partnerships. 

The Medical Research Council's Genome Task Force in a report (1 998) 
entitled Genomics: A Platform for the New Century concluded that 

■ genomics is one of the most important emerging fields of 
scientific research, promising enormous benefits for quality of life, 
wealth creation, and sustainable development with consequences 
for every branch of life science: human health, agriculture, 
fisheries, forestry, and more. 

The National Research Council in an independent report (1998) 
entitled Genome Sciences Strategic Initiative concludes that 

■ genomics will have a major impact on the development of new 
plant varieties, the manipulation of plant genetic traits, and the 
production of new tools for monitoring and managing biodiversity. 

Taken together the reports conclude: 

■ genomics is the opportunity of the coming century and is of 
pivotal importance to many sectors; the reality is that many 
important genes for critical human needs will soon be discovered 
and patented using advanced genomics tools, and Canada must 
be a player 

■ research in the area of genomics needs to be funded 

■ there is a need for multidisciplinary approaches 

■ many opportunities are cross sectoral in nature 

■ both private and public institutions have significant roles to play. 


The opportunity 

Canadian potential to capture tin benefits 

■ Canada's agri-food industry generates $44 billion annually in 
revenue. Total agri-food exports are $20 billion annually; of this, 
food products now account for $8 billion. The sector accounts for 
1 5% of Canadian employment and 9% of our gross domestic 

■ As most of Canada's potentially arable land is currently in 
production, and because the sector receives few subsidies, 
Canada's capacity to meet the ever-expanding demand for more 
and better food products by a world with an estimated 
population of 8 billion by 2030 will depend on innovation 
increasingly involving biotechnology. 

■ Canadian economic activity surrounding agri-food biotechnology 
($319 million) is second only to that of the pharmaceutical 
industry ($396 million). It is estimated that 26% of Canada's core 
biotechnology companies are in the agrifood sector. This biotech 
industry weighting, which is about fivefold that of the United 
States, provides an extremely strong rationale to accelerate 
Canadian agri-food biotechnology investment. 

■ About 20% of processed foods and beverages are produced 
utilizing the techniques of biotechnology; fermentation 
technologies have been particularly widely adopted. 

« The developed world's aging demographics have generated 
exciting markets for functional food and nutraceutical products 
having health-promoting attributes. The National Institute of 
Nutrition recognizes the tremendous potential of biotechnology to 
enhance the nutritional qualities and health properties of food. 

These functional foods point to the convergence of the agri-food 
and health industries. 

A cooperative approach involving the private sector, public 
research institutions, and government regulators has permitted 
the rapid adoption of crops with novel traits produced using 
biotechnology. For example, we estimate that transgenic varieties 
of canola will be grown on 50% of the crop's Canadian acreage 
in 1998. This represents a remarkable adoption rate, as such 
varieties only received their first interim registrations in 1 995. 

The targets 

Farmed crops 

■ Canada is a globally important producer of crops. Currently we 
account for more than 5% of the world's production of wheat, 
barley, canola, flax, peas, and lentils. Much of this production is 
currently exported as bulk commodity. 

■ Wheat, barley, and canola exports amount to about 85% of 
Canada's bulk crop exports. Canada is a major producer of 
wheat and canola. Major benefits are expected to accrue to 
Canada from research to improve wheat and canola production 
efficiencies through enhanced insect and disease resistance and 
better tolerances to low temperature and drought. Improved 
processed quality and nutritional traits, as well as derived 
value-added products, will dramatically increase values. Research 
efforts in farmed crops will focus on wheat and canola. This 
means that successes will result in extremely meaningful benefits 
for Canada in terms of economic sustainability and the 


Marketable molecules 

Both plants and animals have been used as vehicles to produce 
high-value molecules for extremely diverse applications. For 
example, human therapeutic proteins including enzymes, 
antibodies, and vaccines have all been expressed in a range of 
plant species. Plants also have much potential for producing 
chemicals for industrial, food, and feed applications. Research 
Branch scientists are collaborators in such projects. For example, 
the microflora found in the rumen of cattle are being mined for 
beneficial genes. Collaborative projects in future would target 
products for the agri-food sector and chemicals of interest to 
other sectors. We expect that cooperative projects in future would 
rapidly evolve between the Human and Plant Genome program 

The receptor haw for technologies 

i Many multinational agricultural companies have an active R&D 
presence in Canada. Novaritis, DuPont, Monsanto, Pioneer 
Hi-Bred, Dow AgroScience, AgrEvo-PGS, Limagrain, Zeneca, 
DeKalb, and Svalof Weibul are examples. All are incorporating 
their biotechnology innovations into seeds that are sold to 
producers. Such mechanisms for technology dissemination are 
extremely efficient, as the adoption rate of herbicide-tolerant 
canola varieties proves. 

There are a considerable number of Canadian plant biotech 
startups (Performance Plants, Prairie Plants, SemBioSys, DNA 
Landmarks), in addition to Canadian seed companies. 

Private industry players are actively restructuring world wide in 
an effort to position themselves to capture emerging value chains 
that can be exploited by application of plant functional genomics. 


Major organizations are vertically integrating to provide both 
commodity production input products (e.g. pest-resistant varieties) 
and to process novel trait crops into feeds, foods, and ingredients 
for markets world wide. These developments are expected to 
provide Canadians with many opportunities for technological 
innovation and commercial exploitation. 

^fI0.J^C competency in plant science 

■ Research Branch has provided effective national leadership to the 
Canadian agri-food sector in scientific and technology 
development for more than 1 00 years. We have pursued gene 
discovery and exploitation research, and then delivered the 
results as technologies in finished products — commercial 
agricultural crop varieties. To accomplish this track record, 
Research Branch, through its network of 1 8 specialized centres 
strategically located near our clients and partners, has 
established comprehensive expertise in all the component 
scientific disciplines of plant science. 

■ Plant genomics relates to Research Branch business lines 
including genetic resources, crops, soil resources, animals, and 
value-added foods. All business lines incorporate biotechnology 
into their science and technology development projects. 

■ Research Branch has the extensive biological support essential for 
gene discovery and exploitation. This includes pathology, 
entomology, weed science, physiology, agronomy, chemistry, 
genetics, bioinformatics, and crop breeding. 

■ Research Branch has already made a significant investment in 


Some biotechnology applications in AAFC 

m AAFC in partnership with industry led development and 

introduction of the first commercial transgenic oilseed variety in 
the world — Innovator Canola. 

■ Canada has internationally respected agricultural biotechnology 
regulations thanks to effective cooperation between the public 
and private sectors to resolve the issues by doing and applying 
the science. 

Breeding programs for field crops (barley, wheat, oats, canola, 
flax, and peas) have developed and implemented routine use of 
molecular and genomic tools such as doubled haploidy, genome 
maps, and gene (trait) markers (marker-assisted selection). 

Map-based gene cloning in wheat and canola is under way. 

Gene-expression studies (jointly with the Plant Biotechnology 
Institute of the NRC) have been established. 

Proprietary genes and gene promoters have been discovered 
related to carbohydrate metabolism and cold tolerance. 

Linkages and partnerships 

m Research Branch, consisting of 1 8 specialized centres having 
strong relationships with, and presence on or near major 
universities across Canada, would facilitate collaboration and 
stimulate human resource development. 

■ Through its Matching Investment Initiative Program, Research 
Branch has established strong working relationships with its 
industry partners and clients. The branch has developed 
considerable capability on business and legal aspects related to 


the development, management, and exploitation of intellectual 

Research Branch has strong and longstanding working 
relationships with NRC and laboratories in Europe as well as 
with science establishments of the United States government. For 
example, with the NRC, Research Branch transformed an 
industrial oilseed into a new edible oil — canola; this was followed 
by herbicide-tolerant canola. 

Proposed crop genomics initiative in relation to the 
overall Canadian genomics effort 

■ Because the global race to discover and patent genes from a 
wide array of species is now under way, AAFC recommends that 
government investment in biotechnology should build on existing 
strengths and foster complementary activities. 

■ AAFC supports many of the common principles enumerated in 
the NRC and MRC genomics proposals. Namely, an entity 
consisting of interested stakeholders should be created to 
facilitate the establishment of strategic alliances to develop 
"platform" genomic technologies and provide services to 
functional genomics initiatives in humans, plants (particularly in 
Arabidopsis and rice for application in Canadian crops), and 
possibly other appropriate organisms. 

■ Appropriate platform technologies and services could include 

■ high-throughput DNA sequencing to support international 
efforts in sequencing the rice and Arabidopsis genomes 

■ proteomics 

■ bioinformatics 

■ DNA (gene) chips. 


AAFC would work closely with NRC in the development and 
utilization of these platform technologies. 

AAFC believes that successful functional genomics initiatives, 
particularly those relating to expression of desirable agronomic 
traits and processed-product qualities, will depend on extensive 
and related competencies in molecular and quantitative genetics, 
physiology, pathology, and biochemistry of the relevant target 
organism. Groups leading the development of organism-specific 
functional genomics technologies should have demonstrated a 
broad capacity and be in a position to form partnerships and 
agreements with key groups across Canada, and world wide. 

Research Branch led functional genomics initiative 

Based on the above-mentioned criteria, Research Branch is best 
positioned to lead functional genomics initiatives relating to 
economic plants within a "virtual" public research organization. 

■ The Initiative would be led and managed by Research Branch. 
Two integrated sets of collaborative multidisciplinary projects 
would be organized, incorporating scientific strengths wherever 
they might exist within Canada and as appropriate in other 
countries. One set would focus on Arabidopsis and canola and 
the other on rice and wheat. 

■ An essential element of the strategy would be to lever available 
data from global chromosome-sequencing programs in 
Arabidopsis and rice (and possibly other cereals) to target 
desirable genes for the sustainable development of Canada's 
agri-food sector, particularly those areas relating to canola 
and wheat. 


Plant genome projects would require close cooperation with 
"platform technology" initiatives within and outside of AAFC. 
Services and technologies needed would include high-throughput 
DNA sequencing, bioinformatics, DNA chips, and proteomics. 

To effectively utilize the gene discoveries from genomics research, 
this initiative must develop key enabling technologies such as 
promoters and plant transformation protocols to enable freedom 
to operate for a broad base of industry and public laboratories 
to commercialize the newly discovered genes controlling 
agriculturally useful traits. 

A major goal of the program is to commercialize genomic 
technologies involving plants. Because genomics research is 
expected to result in rapid gene discoveries, and hence to 
generate intellectual property, a major focus of the initiative will 
be to manage intellectual property in such a way as to create 
business opportunities that will stimulate establishment and 
growth of viable Canadian plant genomics companies. 

Research Branch will establish partnerships with MRC, NRC, 
universities, and the private sector to assemble the best possible 
teams for each project to accomplish objectives most effectively. 


(pi vgi urn elemen ts 

While the appropriate core facilities and key biological resources are 
essential if the opportunities for accelerated gene discovery offered 
by modern genomics are to be realized, the success of a Canadian 
Crop Genomics Initiative will ultimately depend on 

■ the ability of biologists to detect differences in plant phenotype, 
e.g. pathologists detecting changed disease reactions, 
physiologists detecting enhanced cold acclimation, or chemists 
measuring changes in seed quality 

■ the imagination and ingenuity of scientists in converting 
information about gene activity into enhanced crop performance. 

For this reason, the main component of the proposed Canadian Crop 
Genomics Initiative will be a coordinated set of targeted and biology- 
driven projects lead by AAFC scientists who have the most relevant 
scientific expertise. 

The projects will be targeted to the crop systems with 

■ the best short-term potential for rapid gene discovery 

■ the best long-term potential for generating economic benefits 
from enhanced performance. 

The projects will also be targeted to 

■ traits of strategic importance to Canada 

■ traits in which Canadian science is likely to maintain an 
international lead. 


The biology-driven projects will include five main types of activities: 

■ gene discovery 

■ comparative biology 

■ developing new technologies (in both molecular biology and 

■ map-based gene cloning 

■ crop modification. 

This program will incorporate Canada's historic strength in plant 
breeding and plant biology into a genomics-based gene discovery 
initiative. The program will involve targeted funding for developing 
key infrastructure and biological resources, and for biology-driven 
projects for gene identification and crop enhancement. 


■ Infrastructure investments will be made to automate gene 

■ The minimum physical infrastructure needed to support Canadian 
crop genomics research is high-capacity DNA sequencing (with 
bioinformatics analysis) and facilities for generating and 
screening DNA chips and microarrays. Together, these facilities 
will generate the molecular data that makes it possible to 
automate some aspects of gene discovery. 

■ Two types of biological resources are central to the process of 
accelerating gene cloning and gene discovery for wheat and 
canola. These resources are ordered genome libraries and gene- 
tagging populations. 

■ Ordered large-insert libraries of genomic clones (ordered 
genome libraries) automate the process of map-based gene 
cloning and are of great use in comparative biology and in the 




s* -. 



o » 



PSR; 2n=28 


identification of duplicate genes. Ordered genome libraries also 
facilitate the isolation of the chromosome segments corresponding 
to expressed sequence tagging and thus gene-engineering and 
promoter investigations. 

Gene-tagging populations can be used to discover the functions 
of genes through reverse genetics. At present, this process 
involves inserting gene-disrupting elements at random into a 
plant genome and using the polymerase chain reaction technique 
to identify plants with insertions in particular genes. The 
characteristics of these mutated plants are then investigated. A 
whole library of such plants can now be developed, in which 
each plant has a disrupting element inserted into a different gene 
and in which the genomic DNA sequence of each mutagenic 
insertion point has been determined and catalogued. With this 
type of population, computers can be used to identify the plant 
that has a mutation in a gene of interest. The identified plant can 
then be subjected to exhaustive analysis to identify even very 
subtle changes in phenotype. 

Targeting Canadian traits 

■ Cold and heat tolerance and freezing resistance are 

important characteristics for almost all crops and are of crucial 
strategic importance to Canada. Freezing resistance has a 
significant bearing on yield stability and cold tolerance 
(particularly as it relates to the vigor of seedling growth) and has 
a major influence on yield potential. Parallel gene discovery 
programs in different systems will likely uncover novel and 
complementary avenues to engineering increased cold tolerance 
and increased frost resistance. 

■ Resistance to disease is an important characteristic in all crops. 
Many pathogens are specific to particular crops, and the 
economic importance of different pathogens often varies with 


geographical region. For these reasons, genes involved in 
mechanisms for disease resistance must be given a high priority 
by the Canadian Crop Genomics Initiative. There are also many 
similarities between the mechanisms that plants use to detect and 
respond to different pathogens. These similarities will provide 
useful points of contact and information exchange between 
scientists working on different systems. 

Seed quality is a major component of all cereals, pulses, and 
oilseed crops. The genes that control seed development, carbon 
partitioning, protein quality, oil quality, starch quality, and the 
accumulation of antinutritional compounds will be major targets 
for discovery and modification by the Canadian Crop Genomics 

Resistance to insects is important for reducing crop losses and 
pesticide use. Canada's major crops are affected by a variety of 
insects, such as flea beetles in canola and wheat midge. 
Molecular biologists and entomologists will examine and develop 
a molecular basis for both antibiotic and antixenotic approaches 
to insect resistance. Germplasm and varieties will be developed 
with resistance to economically important insects. 


The budget estimate for a globally competitive initiative in plant 
genomics involves an investment of $25 million annually over a 
10-year period. 



Biotechnology research and 
expertise within^fetftfiC 

AAFC has significant biotechnology expertise in eight of its 1 8 
research centres across Canada. Each centre has a specialized 
mandate to build on the agricultural strengths of the region. 
Coordinated programs across centres create a strong national 
capability. A brief description of biotechnology research in AAFC 

Pacific Agricultural Research Centre, Summerland 

The research program focuses on 

■ development of agronomic traits for tree fruit, small fruit, and 
vegetable crops 

■ protection against plant pathogens, including fungi, viruses and 
bacteria, and insects 

■ processing, utilization, and quality of plant products. 

Scientists have been working on 

■ molecular control of enzymatic browning in pear and apple 

■ resistance to numerous diseases (e.g. fire blight, scab, powdery 
mildew) using transgenes 

■ genomic mapping and gene isolation in apple 

■ marker-assisted selection for self fertility in cherry 

■ control of biological systems that regulate fruit flavor, texture, and 

■ transgene-based virus resistance 

■ DNA-based diagnostics for viruses, bacteria, and fungi 


■ gene mapping and cloning in fungi and bacteria 

■ risk assessment for recombination between transgene viral 
sequences and the actual virus 

■ modification of viruses and fungi as biocontrol agents. 

The centre is well connected to the horticultural industry and the 
research community, nationally and internationally. 

Lethbridge Research Centre 

The centre conducts biotechnology research on ruminant animals and 
potatoes. Results include 

■ enzymes isolated from rumen microorganisms involved in 
digestion of complex carbohydrates and proteins 

■ expression systems developed for producing enzymes (xylanases, 
celluloses, phytases, proteases) that originate from rumen micro- 
organisms as components of fodder plants and as feed additives 
for nonruminant animals 

■ microbes identified that produce bacteriocins and bioactive 
peptides for control of rumen microflora 

■ biotechnology used in potato for germplasm identification, 
studies of genetic inheritance, germplasm development, and 
identification of DNA markers 

■ detection systems developed for several fungal and viral 
pathogens (Fusarium, potato leafroll virus, tobacco rattle virus) 

■ DNA markers identified for resistance to Verticillium. 

The centre has strong connections to the beef and potato industries. 


Saskatoon Research Centre 

The major focus of the centre is on canola development. The 
program has a large molecular genetics group, and sections on 

■ ecological crop protection 
oilseed breeding 

■ natural products chemistry 

■ sustainable land management. 

The centre has an active program of germplasm development for 
Brassica napus, 8. rapa, and the related species 8. juncea, 
8. carinata, and Sinapis alba. The capacity for germplasm 
development is a major resource for biotechnology research and 

Targets for crop improvement are 

■ resistance to insects (phytochemicals, protease inhibitors) 

■ cold tolerance (modifying low-temperature growth characteristics 
and controlling cold acclimatisation) 

■ resistance to pathogens (Leptosphaeria, Sclerotinia - designing 
resistance genes, pyramiding resistance genes, interspecific 
transfer of genes) 

■ oil quality 

■ meal quality 

increasing yield capability (new hybrid systems and reduced pod 

■ drought and heat tolerance. 

The centre has new laboratories designed especially for 
biotechnology and genomics research, with facilities for 

developing large insect libraries of genomic clones for map- 
based gene cloning 

■ >■> 

■ sequencing (for developing expressed sequence tags and 
microsatellite markers) 

■ systems for controlling gene expression 

■ marker-assisted selection of complex plant genotypes 

■ mathematical modeling 

■ bioinformatics. 

The centre has a good working relationship with the National 
Research Council's Plant Biotechnology Institute. It enjoys a long 
tradition of close cooperation with all segments of the oilseed 
industry and is strongly supported by the Canola Council of Canada. 
The main laboratory building is ideally situated for collaboration with 
private sector partners in research and development, including the 
major domestic and multinational agrochemical and seed companies, 
who have research laboratories at Innovation Place, adjacent to the 
University of Saskatchewan. 

Cereal Research Centre, Winnipeg 

The centre is the national centre of specialization for cereal crops 
and is internationally recognized for its work on hard red spring 
wheat and flax. It has one of the best collections world wide of 
genetic resources on wheat, barley, and flax. The program utilizes 
marker-assisted selection for 

■ high protein content 

■ heavy metal uptake 

■ disease resistance (Fusarium, stem and leaf rust, tan spot) 

■ insect resistance (wheat midge) 

■ weathering resistance. 

Genome mapping has been used for an array of traits affecting end- 
use quality. All registered Canadian wheat varieties have been DNA 
fingerprinted. Gene cloning has been practised for specific proteins 
that affect milling and baking quality (glutenins) and disease 


resistance. The centre has a strong tradition in host-parasite 
physiology and in developing cultivars with superior quality. It is a 
logical extension to apply the tools of genomics for a better 
understanding of the interactions between pathogens and plants, as 
well as manipulating genes that affect quality components in the 
seed. The program has a highly effective integration of the molecular 
biology team with plant breeders, pathologists, entomologists, and 
cereal chemists. 

The centre has close working relationships with several private sector 
partners for the development of 

■ hybrid wheats 

■ end use quality traits (storage proteins, modifying starch 
synthesis, industrial enzymes) 

■ antifungal proteins 

■ agronomic traits (lodging resistance, sprouting resistance, 
herbicide resistance). 

The centre, located on the University of Manitoba campus, has good 
working relationships with the 

■ grain industry 

■ Canadian Wheat Board 

■ Canadian Grain Commission 

■ Western Grain Research Foundation 

■ Keystone Agriculture Producers 

■ other organisations. 


Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre, 

The program has responsibility for variety development for corn, 
soybean, wheat, barley, and oats for Eastern Canada. It has one of 
the largest and longest operating plant biotechnology groups in 
Canada. The centre has expertise in molecular strategies for 

■ gene expression (promoters, transacting factors) 

■ insect resistance 

■ cold tolerance 

■ seed protein modification 

■ host-pathogen interaction 

■ seed coat modification 

■ control of development (fertility). 

The biotechnology group is closely integrated with scientists working 
on variety development. Specific projects include 

■ resistance to Fusarium in corn and wheat 

■ resistance to Sclerotinia and Phytophthora in soybean 

■ transformation technologies 

■ constitutive and tissue-specific promoters 

■ cold tolerance in corn and soybean 

■ marker-assisted selection for disease resistance and end use traits 
in oats, barley, wheat, and soybean 

■ expressed sequence tags in soybean 

■ mapping of the oat genome. 

The centre has a history of strong working relationships with large 
private-sector companies and is strongly supported by small seed 
companies based in Ontario and Quebec, Secan, and the Ontario 
Field Crops Research coalition. 


Southern Crop Protection and Food Research 
Centre, London 

The program focuses on the development of 

■ environmentally friendly systems for the protection of fruit, 
vegetable, ornamental, and field crops against insect and plant 

alternate crops for the coarse-textured soils of southern Ontario. 

Current biotechnology projects include 

■ production of pharmaceutical products (vaccines for diseases of 
swine, immune modulators for treatment of diabetes) using 
tobacco and other plant species 

■ expressed sequence tags in stevia (a plant grown for production 
of low-calorie sweetener) 

■ isolation of seed-coat-specific genes in soybean 

■ mapping and cloning of genes for resistance to Phytophthora 
diagnostics for fungi, based on polymerase chain reaction 

■ molecular genetics of pathogenicity in Verticillium 

m isolation and characterization of microbial agents for 
bioremediation of soils 

■ characterization of virulence genes in the bacterial tomato 
pathogens Xanthomonas campestris and Pseudomonas syringae 

■ isolation of tumorigenesis-suppressing genes from Agrobacterium 
vitis (crown gall in grape) 

■ Bacillus thuhngiensis resistance in corn borer 

■ plant transformation systems for stevia and other potential new 

* resistance to fire blight in pear. 

The centre is located in the heart of an area of intensive horticultural 
production. Protection research is aimed at gaining a fundamental 
understanding of the interaction between pest and host. The ultimate 
objective is to develop superior control technologies. 


Soils and Crops Research and Development Centre, 

The centre concentrates on developing forage crops and sustainable 
production systems. Current projects in biotechnology work on 
developing alfalfa cultivars with superior winter survival. Molecular 
probes and restricted fragment length polymorphism markers are 
developed for genes whose low- temperature expression is related to 
improved survival. Marker-assisted selection is developed for a 
number of fungal and bacterial pathogens (Phytophthora, 
Aphanomyces, Verticillium, Fusarium, Corynebacterium). A more 
novel project conducted in collaboration with firms in the 
pharmaceutical industry involves producing large amounts of high- 
value pharmaceutical proteins using transgenic alfalfa plants. 

The centre is closely linked to Laval University, MAPAQ, Coop 
Federee, UPA, and the seed industry. 

Potato Research Centre, Fredericton 

The centre mandate includes 

■ potato breeding 

■ a national repository of potato genetic resources 

■ potato pest management, physiology, and soil and water 

Biotechnology projects include the development or characterization of 

■ DNA markers for sugar content and dormancy 

■ a promoter for processing quality traits 

■ genes related to sugar metabolism and dormancy 

■ DNA level information for genetic combining ability of a parent 
or line 

■ a viral promoter for a number of pathogens 


■ genes related to late blight, common scab, and viruses from 
Solanum sp. 

■ rt-polymerase chain reaction technology for potato virus and 
viroid detection. 

The centre is closely linked to major Canadian potato processors 
(McCains, Cavendish Farms), as well as to the seed trade. About 
50% of seed potatoes exported from Canada are grown in close 
proximity to the centre. 

Other centres 

In addition to these eight centres, there are 10 other AAFC centres of 
specialization across Canada. Each uses the tools of biotechnology in 
carrying out its research program and is part of a mechanism to 
develop the products of biotechnology to the stage of technology 
transfer to the agricultural industry. 

■ The centres at Swift Current, Brandon, and Harrow use doubled 
haploids and marker-assisted selection in developing durum 
wheat, specialty wheats, barley, and soybean. 

■ The centres at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Charlottetown, and 
Lacombe have expertise in developing systems for control of 
disease, insects, and weeds. 

■ The centres at Kentville and St-John's develop cultivars of small 
fruits (blueberry, strawberry, and lingonberry) and apples. 

■ The centres at Saint-Hyacinthe and Lacombe work on food issues 
from bio-ingredients to novel products, packaging, and 

Collectively, the 1 8 centres represent a strong network for developing 
and delivering technology to the Canadian agri-food industry. 



3 ^073 D01M7S50 3 




Lacombe • 

Saskatoon • 

Swift Current 

Brandon ' 'Winnipeg 

Ste-Foy . S^hoHotteto 

Fredericton " •Kentville 
St-Hyacinthe . . lennoxv i lh / 
Ottawa • 

'London • $